It’s been observed that women struggle with (and celebrate!) feelings of invisibility past the age of 40. In a society dominated by a male gaze that favors younger and supposedly “less challenging” female subjects, female artists have their own set of obstacles when it comes to even being acknowledged for involvement in art movements and scenes that have generously lauded their male contemporaries. Enter Anonymous Was A Woman, an organization dedicated to combatting this particular set of challenges and highlighting the achievements of women artists, over 40 years of age and at a significant juncture in their lives or careers, and supporting their careers through $25,000 unrestricted grants.
Though anonymous for years, artist Susan Unterberg recently revealed herself as founder and sole funder of Anonymous Was a Woman, which has awarded over $6 million to 240 women artists over the last two decades. The grantees are nominated by a group of distinguished women curators, writers, critics, and artists. The award goes to 10 recipients a year and is given in recognition of an artist’s accomplishments, artistic growth, originality, and potential.
Just announced, the 2019 cohort is a diverse and exciting group, ranging in age from 45 to 84 years of age, and working across a terrific array of media: Elia Alba (57); Marsha Cottrell (55); Torkwase Dyson (46); Heide Fasnacht (68); Nona Faustine; Rhodessa Jones (70); Jennifer Wen Ma (46); Amie Siegel (45); Diane Simpson (84); and Karina Aguilera Skvirsky (52).
“I am delighted to congratulate this year’s award recipients — a group of extraordinary artists working in diverse mediums and exploring some of the most pressing issues of contemporary life,” said Unterberg, in a press release accompanying the award announcement. “I founded Anonymous Was a Woman to fill a void that I witnessed personally: support for women artists in the middle stages of their careers. More than 20 years later, we continue to see data that reveals the delta between how both museums and the market regard male and female artists — which only galvanizes our mission and our commitment to celebrating the voices of women.”
While some people rightly chafe at the symbolic annihilation of women in mass media, and others find liberation in the release from social pressure to work for male validation, it can be assumed that most artists appreciate recognition for their efforts, not to mention financial support for their continued artistic development. Congratulations to this year’s recipients, Susan Unterberg, everyone who goes out of their way to fight the cultural tendency to relegate women over 40 to the margins!
Editor’s note 11/21/19 3:21pm: We have removed the age of one of the awardees at their request.